We first heard of the strange happenings of Bethel Cumberland Presbyterian Cemetery when the place appeared on WREG-TV's ten most haunted places around Memphis list. It was intriguing for a couple reasons: Besides the usual tales of ghost lights, shadow people, voices, etc., the cemetery has a unique aspect to it...a monster!
Over the years, Bethel Cemetery has been visited by quite a number of paranormal investigation groups--and over the years, there have been many yarns spun about the place. Some true, some more along the lines of urban legend. According to other investigators, the place contains an area inhabited by the remains of long-gone criminals and an area that is dedicated to buried childred. Both places are considered hot-spots by investigators. But it's the third report that makes Bethel stand out: Witnesses in the area of the cemetery (Atoka, Tennessee) have reported a strange creature that appears there. A strange creature with the body of a lion, the head of a dog, a long mane, and red eyes!
Now, when you are working in the dark--and in a cemetery no less--it would be easy to mistake an unusual animal for a 'monster.' In fact, it was our guess that a 'razorback' or wild boar was the probable culprit. Then I read an interesting article about 'portal hauntings' in Troy Taylor's book, Ghost Hunter's Guidebook where he states, "The majority of events that might fit into a 'portal haunting' category seem to come from cemeteries, although no location can be ruled out... Be aware of stories (from cemeteries and other spots) that involve glowing balls of light that are seen with the naked eye, odd creatures, strange shapes, or unexplained images."
Pretty much sums up Bethel Cumberland Cemetery.
After securing permission to investigate the property, Mike Uelsmann and I headed over to the site. We used video, photography, and digital audio recorders to see what we could capture. While the equipment went to work, so did we--and we did have some personal experiences. Most of these seemed to be pale blobs of light bobbing along close to the ground or dark shadows flitting around the perimeter of the area, though we thought we heard a mumbling voice at one point.
We were unable to identify, however, any areas specifically dedicated to criminals or childred. There were quite a few graves from the late 1800's, but since they didn't have a ball and chain emblazoned on the headstone, it was not clear if any of them were criminals. We also did see a few small 'lamb' graves that obviously meant a child had been buried, but these were scattered about the cemetery.
The only outright 'weird' experience we had occurred when a police officer pulled over a local driver in the parking lot just outside the cemetery. While he was dealing with his speeder, we heard a strange sound come from the trees not far from us (and in fact, right beside an audio recorder and camcorder we had positioned). At first, it sounded like a machine ramping up. Then it sort of mutated into a horrible growl. It was startling! Once the officer finished up and left, we searched the area and found nothing there. We could only hope it would be on one of our audio recordings.
After reviewing the evidence we came across only one notable piece of video. It is here for you to watch. It's a 'ghost light' that was caught by our camcorder. If you listen closely, you can actually hear us talking off-camera out of frame (we were, in fact, behind the camera). Nobody else was in the cemetery--and we certainly would have noticed a bright glowing object or flashlight headed towards us. But like most places, it seems activity always wants to occur when you're looking in the other direction! That is, of course, why we use serveillance equipment.
Unfortunately, the weird growl did not make any of the audio, which is very odd considering the close proximity of the recorders and the volume of the event. Chalk it up as a strange happening at a possible 'portal.' Is Bethel Cumberland Presbyterian Cemetery haunted? Hard to tell. It's worth a second look. I'm not sure I'd call it one of the area's 'most haunted' locations, though. Decide for yourself.
Posted by: Rich Newman
Contact Rich at email@example.com